ANCEM: Genocide Denial Fuels Concerns about NPFH Program

Armenian National Committee of Eastern Massachusetts
47 Nichols Avenue
Watertown, MA 02472
[email protected]

August 7, 2007
Contact: Sevag Arzoumanian
Tel: 617-233-3174


— Watertown "No Place for Hate" Program Urged to Sever Ties with
ADL, Following Genocide Denial Remarks by National Director Abe

WATERTOWN, MA – Boston area civil rights advocates have teamed with
Armenian and Jewish American community activists in expressing
disappointment and outrage at recent statements by Anti-Defamation
League (ADL) National Director Abraham Foxman denying the Armenian
Genocide and opposing Congressional legislation affirming that
crime against humanity, reported the Armenian National Committee of
Eastern Massachusetts (ANCEM). Foxman’s statements have seriously
jeopardized the credibility of the Watertown "No Place For Hate"
(NPFH) anti-racism and tolerance promotion program, with pressure
mounting on its leadership to sever ties with its parent
organization, the ADL.

The controversy first came to light on July 6th when the Watertown
Tab published a letter by an Armenian American citizen that
spotlighted Foxman’s recent statements opposing Congressional
Armenian Genocide legislation. The letter asked the local "No Place
For Hate" chapter to disassociate itself from the ADL.

Foxman’s statements were from an April 21st Los Angeles Times
article titled "Genocide Resolution Still Far from Certain" in
which Foxman argued that "The Turks and Armenians need to revisit
their past. The Jewish community shouldn’t be the arbiter of that
history. And I don’t think the U.S. Congress should be the arbiter
either." The July 6th letter spurred a flurry of responses from
Armenian Americans and others that were printed in the Watertown
Tab. One letter, from New England ADL Regional Director Andrew
Tarsy, defended Foxman, but was subsequently countered by a series
of articles by local columnists Frank Mazzaglia, John DiMascio and
community citizens expressing concerns about a loss of credibility
by NPFH if it continued its association with genocide deniers.

In a letter to the Watertown Tab, ANCEM chairperson Sharistan
Melkonian wrote, "Foxman’s use of euphemistic language to deny the
Armenian Genocide runs counter to the fundamental tenets of No
Place for Hate… and also runs counter to the ADL’s own charter,
which, according to the ADL’s Website, states that the ADL’s
`ultimate purpose is to secure justice and fair treatment to all
citizens alike and to put an end forever to unjust and unfair
discrimination against and ridicule of any sect or body of

"For the parent organization of No Place of Hate, or rather the
national director of that organization, to deny genocide, goes
against the basic concepts of tolerance and respect for diversity
the organization is working so hard to promote in our communities,"
continued Melkonian.

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Boston Globe Documents Genocide Denial Concerns
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The situation intensified after an August 1st article in the Boston
Globe, titled "Anti-Bias Effort Stirs Anger in Watertown," where
Foxman, again, in reference to Armenian Genocide recognition
efforts, stated "We’re not party to this, and I don’t understand
why we need to be made party." In response to a direct question by
reporter Keith O’Brien whether "what happened to Armenians under
the Ottoman Empire was genocide, he [Foxman] replied, ‘I don’t
know.’" He went on to note that "’I’m not going to be the arbiter
of someone else’s history,’" . . . adding that he does not believe
that Congress should either."

In her interview with the Globe’s O’Brien, Melkonian condemned
Foxman’s genocide denial and stated that the ANC EM would "call for
the Watertown ‘No Place for Hate’ program to sever its ties with
the ADL unless it denounces Foxman’s position and acknowledges the

Watertown’s NPFH Co-Chairman Will Twombly, in response to O’Brien’s
inquiries, stated that "Not to condemn the genocide and fully
recognize it for what it was, I personally find inconsistent with
the mission of No Place for Hate." He noted that his group would be
asking "tough questions" of the New England ADL’s Tarsy. "At that
point, Twombly said, the committee will decide on the best course
of action, including the option of severing ties with the ADL
altogether, effectively ending the program."

In a subsequent August 3rd editorial, the Boston Globe called on
the ADL to "acknowledge the genocide against the Armenian people
during World War I, and criticize Turkish attempts to repress the
memory of this historical reality." Citing Israel’s close ties with
Turkey, the editorial countered that "the ADL is not an arm of
Israel, and whatever it does will not affect Turkish foreign
policy." The editorial concluded, noting "failure to acknowledge
past atrocities will encourage would-be perpetrators to believe
they can get away with them, just as the Ottoman Empire did."

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Jewish American Leaders / Activists Speak Out Against Genocide
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Amongst key community leaders joining the Armenian American
community in expressing concern about Foxman’s genocide denial and
its repercussions on the "No Place for Hate" program are Jewish
American academics and organization leaders. In a letter to the
Boston Globe, Jewish Voice for Peace – Boston Co-Chair Martin
Federman noted that "Abraham Foxman’s contention that his Anti-
Defamation League (ADL) should not be the ‘arbiter of history’ by
acknowledging the historicity of the Armenian Genocide is at best
disingenuous, at worst craven self-interest." Federman argued that
"if anyone were to sidestep the issue of whether the Holocaust
really happened, by refusing to be the ‘arbiter of history’, Foxman
and the ADL would (appropriately) be apoplectic."

In a press release issued on August 5th, Boston University
Professor Michael Siegel condemned the ADL’s genocide denial and
urged Watertown ‘No Place for Hate’ to "sever its ties with the ADL
unless the organization acknowledges that this genocide occurred."
A public letter from Siegel to New England ADL Regional Director
Andrew Tarsy stated "As a long-time ADL supporter, it is with great
disappointment that I write you today to express my disgust with
your organization’s refusal to publicly acknowledge the Armenian
genocide, and in particular, your July 26 response to the recent
controversy in Watertown, in which you refused to acknowledge the
genocide, and instead, stated that the question of whether a
genocide occurred: " was one to be resolved between the two
countries — Armenia and Turkey."

Similar statements of outrage have been spotlighted on a number of
blogs, including articles by the Huffington Post’s Mark Oppenheimer
and Jewcy’s Joey Kurtzman. Oppenheimer, in a July 10th post, argued
that "for a non-profit like the ADL, which in fact has done
important work to combat not just anti-Semitism but other forms of
ethnocentrism and racism, to shill for Holocaust-deniers (yes, the
Armenian genocide can fairly be called a Holocaust) is inexcusable.
He should be fired." Kurtzman stated that "It is a scandal of
unprecedented proportion when one of the most prominent figures in
our community, a man who claims to speak on our behalf, publicly
challenges the historicity of another community’s genocide.
Foxman’s ADL no longer represents the interests of the Jewish

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In an August 3rd letter to No Place for Hate Watertown, the ANCEM
noted that "affiliation or acquiescence with Mr. Foxman’s
unconscionable position on the Armenian Genocide seriously
undermines the efforts of the NPFH – a leader in the fight against
bigotry and intolerance in Watertown.’ The letter went on to urge
the NPFH to call on Foxman to `publicly and unequivocally renounce
its [ADL’s] denialist agenda.’

An ANCEM sponsored community petition called on No Place for Hate
"in keeping with its principles" to " issue a public statement
opposing Turkey’s state-sponsored campaign to deny the Armenian
Genocide and call on NPFH sponsor, the Anti-Defamation League
(ADL), through its National Director Abraham Foxman, to openly and
unequivocally acknowledge the Armenian Genocide and support
Congressional affirmation of this crime against humanity."

Within days, the petition gathered over 300 hundred signatures. To
learn more about the Foxman/ADL genocide denial controversy visit:

"No Place for Hate" is a community-based campaign established by
the Anti-Defamation League geared to bring awareness to and fights
against anti-Semitism, racism and all other forms of bigotry. Some
50 cities throughout Massachusetts are termed "No Place for Hate"
zones, and participation is growing throughout the United States,
including: Austin, TX; Denver, CO; Houston, TX; Las Vegas, NV; Los
Angeles, CA; New York, NY; Omaha, NE; Philadelphia, PA; and Santa
Barbara, CA, among other cities.

The Armenian National Committee of Eastern Massachusetts is part of
the largest and most influential Armenian American grassroots
political organization. Working in coordination with a network of
offices, chapters, and supporters throughout the United States and
affiliated organizations around the world, the ANCA actively
advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad
range of issues.